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A feast of foliage

October 19, 2008|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

On fields o'er which the reaper's hand has pass'd
Lit by the harvest moon and autumn sun,
My thoughts like stubble floating in the wind
And of such fineness as October airs,
There after harvest could I glean my life
A richer harvest reaping without toil,
And weaving gorgeous fancies at my will
In subtler webs than finest summer haze.
- "On Fields O'er Which the Reaper's Hand has Pass'd" by Henry David Thoreau

Hot chocolate and piles of raked leaves to jump into. Ahh, it's autumn.

Although it might cost you a tank of gas, looking at fall foliage is a great way to spend time with a loved one and bask in Mother Nature.

Here are a few trips that are sure to give you picturesque visions of fall in the Tri-State area.

Note some of the parks may have entrance fees.

Washington County

Sideling Hill, about six miles west of Hancock on Interstate 68, is more than a place of geological wonder. It also gives visitors a perfect view of the surrounding countryside. Visitors can walk across the pedestrian bridge that spans the interstate for a better view back toward Hancock or walk the other direction to look west toward Allegany County. For directions, go to www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/sidelinghill.html.

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Hike or bike on the Western Maryland Rail Trail, which features 23 miles of paved path, to get out and see the leaves. The trail can be accessed from Interstate 70 Exit 12 (to Big Pool) or Exit 3 (to Hancock) or from Interstate 68's Exit 77 at Pearre Station. Bring your camera for this one. For directions, visit www.westernmarylandrailtrail.com/WMRT.

Fort Frederick State Park, west of Clear Spring, is known for its part in the French and Indian War, but it's also a wonderful place to see fall foliage. Beyond the fort is the Wetlands Trail that is an easy hike. Chances are you'll spot some furry creatures as well. For directions, go to www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/FortFrederick.html

Blairs Valley Lake, north of Clear Spring off Blairs Valley Road, is a man-made wonder of a lake that was built in the 1960s. Most of the time, it's a hot spot for local fisherman, but when the leaves start to change, there is plenty to see at the site as the colors are reflected in the pool of water. Bring your hiking boots because you can walk around the lake. For more information, go to www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/recreational/fwhotblairsvalley.html

Cushwa Basin in Williamsport, sitting along the Potomac River, with the nearby C&O Canal Towpath, is another chance to get out and enjoy the scenery along a pathway. Take in some fresh October air by biking or hiking along the towpath. For more information, go to www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/williamsportvisitorcenter.htm

For years, City Park in Hagerstown has been known for its serenity and beauty inside the city limits - and during autumn it's no different. There is plenty of room to get out and stretch your legs, feed the geese and maybe even play a round of softball. And at the end, you can take in some history at the Hager House or duck into the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts to warm up with the latest art exhibit. For directions, go to www.hagerstownmd.org/Parks_Rec/cityPark.asp

Antietam National Battlefield has remained peaceful since the days following the infamous Civil War battle on Sept. 17, 1862. Today, the landscape remains about the same it did nearly 100 years ago, except for monuments erected for fallen soldiers. Visitors can walk in the same paths that tropps for the Union and Confederacy once did. There's plenty of areas to hike or bike and take in the beautiful landscapes. Go to www.nps.gov/anti.

Washington Monument State Park, located four miles east of Boonsboro off Alternate U.S. 40, is where the first monument was built to honor the first U.S. president. The Appalachian Trail weaves through the park for those who want to get out and get close to nature. Those who make the short trek uphill to the monument and climb up the tower will get the best reward. High above, visitors can see treetops of the land that surrounds the park. It might be too late in the season, but lucky visitors sometimes see hawks and bald eagles. For more information, visit www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/washington.html

Gathland State Park, spans both Washington and Frederick counties, and is located one mile west of Burkittsville off Md. 17. Surrounded by mountains, nowhere can you get closer to lush foliage. The Appalachian Trail passes through the park here as well, so there is plenty of trail to hike on. Stop and see the monument that was erected for war correspondents. For directions, go to www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/gathland.html

Morgan County, W.Va.

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